First trip to Africa: Getting there on Air Namibia

Just after passport control at Sofia International Airport, a lady, armed with a pencil and a pad, asked if I cared to participate in a survey. I did, so among other things, she inquired where my travels were taking me:

‘Namibia’, I said, ‘and Botswana’.

She stared, perplexed, as if she was trying to gauge whether I was joking or not:

‘First time I hear of these’…

So Namibia (and Botswana) are not on the travel list of most, which explains why there are few relatively painless means to get there. Air Namibia offers the only direct flight originating outside of Africa, which connects the Old Continent via Frankfurt to Windhoek.

Flight reservations are possible online, however, I wanted to do a multiple destination itinerary (with one leg finishing in Maun, Botswana) and it didn’t work out for some reason.  I had to call the Air Namibia UK office (no travel agent authorized to book Air Namibia tickets in Bulgaria); the reservation process was relatively stress-free; they even have a 48 hour reservation hold period before requesting payment (for which they ask for a credit card copy, as well as passport copies).

The inbound route we initially settled on was Frankfurt – Windhoek – Maun, with a brief stay in Windhoek but a couple of weeks before departure it turned into an elaborate 24 hour journey – Frankfurt – Windhoek (6hr layover) – Victoria’s Falls – Maun. Add an extra 2 hr flight from Sofia to Frankfurt, along with a 4 hr break there and, we are already talking some serious time spent airport-hopping. Oh well, at least the destination was worth it.

But yes, if you are planning on taking Air Namibia, be aware there could be last minutes changes to your itinerary.

The flights from Fraport’s Terminal 2 leave daily at about 8pm and take approximately 9 hours, which adds to an arrival time of 5/6am depending on daylight savings time.

The flight was half-full, judging by the language mix spoken, with mostly German passengers. The plane was on the oldish side, an Airbus 340, with no personal TV screens, no entertainment options or personal care items.Service was just ok; the cabin crew were a mix of men and women all of African origin, while the pilots were Europeans or of European descent, most likely German as indicated by their accent. The food – standard long-haul flight fare – mayo-based salad, main course – beef or fish, cheese, bread, butter and dessert, no frills. Unlike on U.S. airlines international flights, here alcohol is free, and the tomato juice – among the best served on air.

The flight from Windhoek to Victoria’s Falls was delayed due to technical reason. One hour bonus layover… This time the aircraft was much smaller, as it suits the brief 1hr 20 min long journey. There couldn’t have been more than 15 passengers on the plane, most of which got off at Victoria’s Falls. Much to my surprise, a full size lunch was served, followed by a decent sandwich on the next 30 min flight. I guess the ‘pretzel bag’ tendency has not yet overtaken Air Namibia’s food policy. And again, awesome tomato juice.windhoek4Windhoek (4 of 4)The stop-over in Zimbabwe was 30 minutes. Two other passengers, along with us and the couple flight attendants continued onto our final destination.

Windhoek (3 of 4)All in all, Air Namibia was a positive experience. While not living up yet to the standards of the so called ‘world class airlines’ , it seems to be safe, generally comfortable and fairly reliable.

  1. Thanks, Rob. I’ve got lots to share from this trip, so exciting!

  2. Quite an adventure you had, thanks for sharing! I run South Africa Travel Online, and we’re running a competition to find the best blog on each route – there are no prizes, but we have linked to this page from our Windhoek to Victoria Falls page. Keep up the adventures :) Rob

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